Sep 23, 2019

2020 GOP primary challenger: Trump's Ukraine call was "treason"

GOP presidential candidate Bill Weld suggested on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Monday that President Trump should face the death penalty for treason if he pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son or face the withholding of military aid.

Weld's comments:

"[Trump] has now acknowledged that in a single phone call right after he suspended $250 million of military aid to Ukraine, he called up the president of Ukraine and pressed him 8 times to investigate Joe Biden, who the president thinks is going to be running against him."
"Talk about pressuring a foreign country to interfere with and control a U.S. election. It couldn't be clearer. And that's not just undermining democratic institutions. That is treason. It's treason, pure and simple. And the penalty for treason under the U.S. Code is death. That's the only penalty. The penalty on the Constitution is removal from office. And that might look like a pretty good alternative to the president if he can work out a plea deal."

The big picture: It's still unclear exactly what Trump told Zelensky, and the president said yesterday that "it doesn't matter" what he said.

  • Democrats across government have demanded that Trump release the transcript of the phone call to prove he has nothing to hide.
  • The incident has renewed calls for impeachment from Democrats — even more moderate members who had previously expressed reticence, like House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff.
  • Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican who has been critical of Trump in the past, called the allegations surrounding the call as "troubling in the extreme."

The bottom line: Trump leads Weld by more than 80 percentage points in most recent polls for the GOP nomination in 2020, per Real Clear Politics.

Go deeper: Pelosi hints at impeachment over Trump-Ukraine whistleblower complaint

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Trump doubles down on defense of Ukraine conversation about Biden

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

While speaking to reporters at the UN General Assembly gathering on Monday, President Trump doubled down on claims that he was right to discuss Joe Biden and his son during a July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

"If you don't talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt? One of the reasons [Zelensky] got elected is he was going to stop corruption. So it's very important that on occasion you speak to somebody about corruption. Very important.”

Why it matters: There is no evidence for Trump and Rudy Giuliani's claims that Biden pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor because he was investigating his son, according to a New York Times fact-check. Trump has denied that there was "quid pro quo" involved in his conversation with Zelensky, but he seemed to suggest in his comments Monday that he would not provide foreign aid to a country that is "corrupt."

Go deeperArrowSep 23, 2019

Trump-Ukraine scandal: The key players, dates and documents

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The House's impeachment inquiry has been driven forward by new disclosures of what exactly President Trump wanted the government of Ukraine to do — revealed in 3 key documents, but nonetheless distorted and disputed along the way.

We've gathered the key players, events and disclosures of the Trump-Ukraine saga in one place to clear up what's happened so far and examine where we go from here.

Go deeperArrowOct 8, 2019

Trump calls GOP Sen. Mitt Romney a "pompous ass"

Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images and Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

President Trump referred to Mitt Romney as a "pompous ass" on Saturday in response to the Republican senator's criticism of Trump for his "brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine" to investigate the Bidens.

Why it matters: Romney, who criticized the Trump-Ukraine allegations after reading the whistleblower complaint, is one of the first Republican senators to denounce Trump's calls for China or Ukraine to investigate one of his top 2020 rivals.

Go deeperArrowOct 5, 2019